Tag Archives: Senate Republicans

House Democrats flex their muscles; Senate GOP is up next

The Democrats who control the U.S. House of Representatives stuck together today. They got a few of their Republican friends to join them in blocking Donald J. Trump’s emergency declaration.

The vote was 245-182, which is almost a full House tabulation. The issue is that important.

Trump has declared there to be an emergency on our southern border. He did so even while acknowledging that “I didn’t need to” make the declaration. He did so to make a political point.

The president’s ostensible point is to stem the tide of drug dealers, killers, rapists, human traffickers and terrorists he says are pouring into the country. Military officials say no such emergency exists. Indeed, the president’s declaration is as phony as a degree from Trump University.

Now it’s the Senate’s turn. Republicans still run the upper chamber. However, some GOP senators are peeling away from the president, who now stands likely to lose this emergency declaration travesty.

Trump is likely to veto whatever Congress sends to him. The margins of defeat in the House and Senate are not “veto proof,” meaning that Congress likely will be unable to override a presidential veto.

But what does this mean to the president’s declaration?

It means to me that he doesn’t have the support of a majority of a co-equal branch of the federal government. Will he proceed anyway with this idiotic emergency declaration? Oh, more than likely he will because he doesn’t understand the political implications of what he intends to do — which is build The Trump Wall along our border with Mexico.

This is getting weirder by the hour.

Principle pushes against politics

I just hate it when principle runs smack head-on into real-time politics.

The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court has created just such a conundrum — at least for me.

The principle involves whether to fill the ninth seat on the nation’s highest court, an argument I made when President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

It wasn’t to be for the Garland and the president; Senate Republicans threw up their roadblock and obstructed the nomination by refusing even to consider it.

They were wrong!

Now a new president has nominated Gorsuch to Scalia’s vacant seat. Senate Democrats are threatening to do all they can to obstruct it, to block Donald Trump’s nominee from taking his seat on the bench.

I’m swallowing real hard as I write this, but it is just as wrong for Democrats to obstruct this nominee as it was for Republicans to obstruct Merrick Garland.

The principle of presidential prerogative stands firm in my view.

So does the need for the Supreme Court to be whole. It needs nine seats occupied to avoid tie votes that in effect send important cases back to lower-court rulings.

At one level, I sympathize with Democrats’ rage at the way their GOP “friends” played raw politics with Garland’s nomination. The GOP leadership took a huge gamble on the hope that a Republican would be elected president. The odds of that gamble paying off seemed to lengthen considerably when Donald Trump won the GOP presidential nomination this past summer.

Trump fooled a lot of us by defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn to nominate people to become justices on the highest court in America.

By all accounts, Gorsuch is qualified. He’s not my ideal justice candidate. To be candid, given Trump’s seeming lack of ideological conviction, I’m not at all certain he even¬†fits whatever core values inform the president’s thinking.

The fundamental point, though, is whether it is right for Democrats to threaten to keep the seat vacant for another year — or perhaps for the entire length of time a Republican president is recommending potential justices.

It is not right!

Judge Gorsuch deserves a Senate committee hearing and a full vote in the Senate — just as Judge Garland did.

Principle ought to matter more than politics — even when one’s political sensibilities are being trampled.

Trump makes friends with dreaded Democratic leader

If we are to believe Donald J. Trump’s statement to the New York Post, then he is making at least one great friend on the other side of the political divide.

The president-elect’s new best friend appears to be incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a liberal New York Democrat.

Schumer reportedly told the Post that he gets along better with Schumer than he does with congressional Republicans.

My first reaction when I heard this was, “Well, duh?”

Two factors come immediately to mind.

One is that Schumer and Trump are home boys, hailing from the same state. Trump grew up in Queens; Schumer was born in Brooklyn and thus also is quite familiar with New York City.

The other is that Republicans in both legislative chambers worked against their party’s presidential nominee in 2016, only to see him defy the odds and be elected president.

Yep, a lot of us were surprised. I heard just this past week that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was certain that Trump would lose the election. Who knew? Certainly not the Kentucky Republican.


I am taking what I have read about Trump’s newfound friendship with Schumer with a massive dose of salt. He is quite capable of changing his mind in the next, oh, hour or so.

But if it’s true — that Trump and Schumer¬†have become political¬†BFFs — the GOP establishment that featured the “Never Trump” wing of the party is largely to blame.

Where is LBJ when you need him?

Barack H. Obama needs to channel Lyndon B. Johnson.

In a big way.

President Obama’s negotiating team — led by Secretary of State John Kerry — has just brokered a deal that cuts off Iran’s path to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

But not only are congressional Republicans opposed to the deal — which is no surprise in the least — but congressional Democrats appear to be skeptical of the deal.


How does LBJ play into this? I’m trying to imagine congressional Democrats bucking ol’ Lyndon, who was legendary in his ability to cajole his former congressional colleagues into seeing things his way.

Vote with me, or else I’m going to make your life holy hell, he would tell friend and foe alike. There was not disputing LBJ’s sincerity. When he said he’d make congressmen and women’s lives uncomfortable, he meant it.

Former Amarillo College President Paul Matney, who is no slouch as a political observer, once told me he thought Obama’s greatest weakness as president was his lack of congressional relationships. He served only three years in the Senate before being elected president in 2008 and hadn’t built a large cache of friends on Capitol Hill upon whom he could depend when the going gets tough.

It’s going to get quite tough in the weeks ahead as the president seeks to sell the details of his Iran nuclear deal to members of both parties.

Imagine Democrats telling Lyndon Johnson that they’re skeptical of a deal negotiated by¬†a presidential team of the same party.

As for President Obama’s efforts to sell this deal — which I believe has the potential for bringing a more comprehensive peace to the Middle East — well, good luck, Mr. President.

GOP dreams come true: Reid to retire

Republicans across the land are awakening this morning to what they are certain is good news: Harry Reid, the man they love to loathe, is retiring from the U.S. Senate at the end of 2016.

Me? I’m not one of the GOP faithful, but I am more or less glad the Senate minority leader is calling it a career.


It’s not because of anything he’s done that’s offended me. It’s that the man is 75 years of age; he’s been in Washington a very long time; he’s enjoyed countless political victories and suffered¬†countless defeats … and he’s recovering from a brutal eye and facial injury he suffered in a fall from exercise equipment.

Reid has gotten stale. It’s likely time for some new representation in his home state of Nevada and I venture to guess that Democrats as well as Republicans are of like minds in calling for that need.

Politico describes Reid style this way: “As leader, Reid developed a no-nonsense, hard-ball style that came to define his stewardship. He muscled through Senate passage of the Affordable Care Act on Christmas Eve in 2009 on a straight party-line vote, when his party controlled 60 seats, enough to overcome a GOP filibuster. In 2013, Reid took the unprecedented step of invoking the so-called ‘nuclear option,’ a move that gutted filibuster rules for presidential nominations that critics said altered the deliberative nature of the body.”

I’m as certain as I am about anything that it doesn’t matter who the Senate Democrats choose as their next leader. He or she will develop sufficient enmity among Republicans to ensure that the upper legislative chamber will continue its level of dysfunction.

Harry Reid will become yesterday’s news in due course.


Logan Act may have been violated

The Logan Act was enacted in 1799, during the John Adams administration.

Its provisions are clear: No citizen shall — other than the president of the United States — shall¬†negotiate with another government or presume to speak for the U.S. government.

Here is what it says:

“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

So, here’s the question: Did the 47 Republican U.S. senators who signed the letter to Iranian government officials seeking to discourage Iran from approving a nuclear disarmament treaty with the United States violate the Logan Act?

Some folks are beginning to suggest that the letter’s intent is so egregious that the senators might have committed a near-treasonous act.

President Obama is seeking to negotiate a deal that ends Iran’s nuclear program. The senators are telling Iran that whatever treaty approved might become invalid once the president leaves office on Jan. 20, 2017. The GOP lawmakers are encouraging the Iranians to oppose the treaty.

There appears to be some serious undermining of the president’s authority to negotiate a treaty. Yes, the Senate has the right to disapprove of the treaty once it’s finalized. However, to interfere in the midst of negotiations? That job belongs to the president of the United States — and no one else.

Message to the Senate Republicans: Butt the hell out!

How about confirming new AG … now?

The delay over a confirmation vote on the new U.S. attorney general is beginning to confound me.

Loretta Lynch is an eminently qualified U.S. attorney from New York. She was nominated by President Obama to succeed Eric Holder at the Justice Department. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-8 to recommend her confirmation, with three Republicans joining all nine Democrats on the panel to approve her confirmation.


But the full Senate has yet to schedule a confirmation vote.

All 45 Senate Democrats signed a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking him to schedule a vote so that Lynch presumably can get started on her new job.

The confounding part is the consequence of the delay.

Eric Holder remains on the job. It’s not that I think he’s done a poor job as attorney general. Senate Republicans cannot stand the guy. He’s angered them time and again over policy disagreements. The GOP caucus doesn’t want him on the job any longer.

So, why not schedule a vote for Lynch — who still enjoys some Republican support — so she can replace the despised Eric Holder?

Is it because getting Holder out of office robs Republicans of a target at whom they can take potshots?

Hey, I’m just askin’.

Schedule a Senate vote, Mr. Majority Leader.


Yes, Mme. Leader, it was a 'wave'

Nancy Pelosi needs a reality check.

The House of Representatives Democratic leader says the Republican sweep in the midterm election didn’t constitute a “wave.” She said voters weren’t endorsing GOP policies and its agenda.

‚ÄúThere was no wave of approval for the Republicans. I wish them congratulations, they won the election, but there was no wave of approval for anybody. There was an ebbing, an ebb tide, for us,‚ÄĚ she said.


As much as I hate to disagree with the minority leader, she’s wrong, mistaken, misguided, or just plain ignorant. OK, I doubt the “ignorant” part.

What happened Nov. 4 was a wave.

The GOP needed to flip six seats to gain control of the Senate; it got eight and is poised to win a ninth seat if the Louisiana runoff in December ends up in Republicans’ favor. Republicans also won 12 additional House seats, cementing their control of the lower chamber. The GOP also gained governorships across the nation.

That’s a wave, Mme. Leader.

All is not lost for Democrats. They have a decent chance in 2016 of getting the Senate back — but only if a couple of things happen.

First, the turnout has to improve dramatically from the dismal midterm turnout, which figured to work in Republicans’ favor. We’ll be electing a new president in two years and the turnout for these elections always dwarfs the previous election. That means more of the Democratic base — namely minorities and lower-income Americans — will be motivated to vote.

What’s more, a large number of Republican Senate seats will be on the line, giving Democrats a legitimate chance of picking off a few incumbents, or capturing seats that Republican incumbents will surrender through retirement.

Second, the Republican majority in both congressional chambers stands a fair chance of bungling this opportunity to actually govern. If they shut down the government later this month, or if they actually launch impeachment proceedings against the president over his use of executive authority, well, the blowback could be fearsome.

However, that does not diminish the importance of what happened just a few days ago.

Democrats got swept out of power in a political wave.


Former candidate might hold Senate key

If the Democrats hold the U.S. Senate — and that remains a huge if — they likely may owe their rescue to a Democrat who wasn’t even on the ballot.

No, I’m not talking about President Barack Obama.

The rescuer might be a fellow named Chad Taylor, a former Democratic candidate for the Senate from, of all places, Kansas.


Yes, that Kansas, one of the most deeply red states — behind Texas and Utah, perhaps — in the country.

Taylor dropped out of the Senate race against incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts. He left the campaign to a third candidate named Greg Orman, who’s running as an independent but who appears ready to caucus with Senate Democrats if he’s elected.

Orman is holding a double-digit lead over Roberts at the moment and with less than a month to go before Election Day, it’s beginning to look rather grim for the veteran Republican lawmaker.

The RealClearPolitics.com average of polls shows Republicans with a potential seven-pickup in the Senate; they need six to win control of the place. So, Orman’s possible victory isn’t the only race that could keep the Senate in Democratic hands.

Iowa needs to stay Democratic. North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagen is holding a slim lead over her challenger. And former President Clinton has returned to his home state of Arkansas to campaign on behalf of his pal Mark Pryor, who’s trying to keep the seat in Democratic control.

If it boils down, though, to a single race — the one Kansas — Democrats might have to send former candidate Chad Taylor the biggest bouquet of flowers they can find to say “thanks” for bowing out.

Sen. Inhofe learns his foes are human, too

It turns out that Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., has learned something about his Senate colleagues, particularly those with whom he has been fighting for many years over politics and policy.

They’re human beings, family men and women, individuals with big hearts that are full of compassion and love.

Inhofe sat down with David Gregory on “Meet the Press” and revealed something that on the surface doesn’t seem like much of a story. Then again, maybe it is, given the climate in Washington, D.C.


Inhofe’s son, Perry, was killed recently in a plane crash. The senator and his family have been grief-stricken over their loss. Inhofe revealed to Gregory that senators from the other side, Democrats, reached out to him in ways that seemed to surprise him.

I’m not sure why it would surprise the senator. They all have families as well. They’re human beings, with human feelings and emotions.

Inhofe said, “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I seem to have gotten more — well at least as many, maybe more — communications from some of my Democrat friends.”

I do not know how to process that remark. Inhofe isn’t suggesting Democrats are more compassionate than Republicans. However, for him to single out his Democratic colleagues in that manner strikes me as, well, just a tad unusual.

Inhofe spoke of his battles with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “Harry and I … disagree on all this stuff, this political stuff. But we were both married the same year, in 1959. And we’ve both had some illnesses. So yeah, I would say that when something like this happens, you get closer together. The differences are still there. … But your attitude changes,” said Inhofe.

As the Huffington Post reported, “In the wake of his personal tragedy, Inhofe said, ‘all of a sudden the old barriers that were there — the old differences, those things that keep us apart — just disappear. It’s not just a recognition that I know how much more important this is, but they do, too. And they look out. And they realize that you’ve lost someone. And that brings us closer together.'”

The Huffington Post describes Inhofe as one of the Senate’s more partisan members. It calls him an “archconservative” who has battled tooth and nail with Democrats continually over the years.

I watched the interview this morning. I saw a man in great pain talking about his feelings in the wake of his son’s death. I also think I saw a glimmer of gratitude for the love that flowed his way from across the aisle.

These kinds of stories remind us that we’re all imbued with the same essence. It’s called humanity.